July 24, 2023
Patient care manager Kathleen Leslie, second from left, spends time with a few of Willow Creek Continuing Care Centre's dedicated health care aides, from left, Marivic Masirag, Jevylyn Salenga, Amber Driedger and Helen Lambert. Photo by Josh Thorlakson.
Story by Nathan Downey | Photo by Josh Thorlakson
CLARESHOLM — A program for training health care aides is proving a huge plus at the Willow Creek Continuing Care Centre, a 100-bed long term care facility.
Patient care at the site depends heavily on its team of health care aides (HCAs), who help residents with their daily needs and support their well-being.
“I like to think of our HCAs as the experts on our residents. They’re with the residents the most and they know them better than anyone, especially working rural. They are so integral to the care we deliver,” says Kathleen Leslie, Patient Care Manager at Willow Creek.
Claresholm is situated about 130 km south of Calgary, and its location — far enough away to be considered rural — makes recruitment a challenge for that community.
Leslie says Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Health Care Aide Training Program — launched in September 2022 — is making a big difference at her site. Willow Creek currently has eight trainees enrolled in the program, who are gaining on-the-job training as they work toward their HCA certification.
“Before this program, the administrative workload for onboarding HCAs was quite heavy. We had to do our own HCA training; it was a lot of involvement for me as a manager,” says Leslie, whose responsibilities as patient care manager include supervising the health care aides and nursing staff at Willow Creek.
“The HCA Training Program frees up my availability for all the other things I’m responsible for. It’s also better for the HCA trainees.” The program provides newly-hired, uncertified HCAs with paid workplace training as they work towards their certification. From day one, trainees receive ongoing support from program staff, including orientation, instruction and time with clinical nurse educators.
Leslie says the HCA Training Program has been very helpful with recruitment and retention at Willow Creek. Applicants seek her site out because they can live and work in their home community while working toward their HCA certification.
Upon enrolling in the program, applicants commit to work at a site for two years, which further helps with retention.
From the moment they sign on, trainees enjoy the full support of the HCA Training Program, from their certified colleagues and from onsite leadership as they move through the program. Trainees learn all the skills they need to provide outstanding patient care and help residents live more fulfilling lives — as they achieve a credential that sets them up for career success.
“This program gives people, who maybe can’t afford to go to school right now, the opportunity to not only get hands-on skills and get their training paid for, but also to earn a living for their family at the same time,” says Leslie. “It’s an amazing program.”